Every year I analyze the use of websites in political races across the country. This year there were more candidates with websites than I\’d noticed in the past. That\’s a good thing, in my opinion – the web is an ever-increasing way to reach your audience at a much lower cost base than sending mailers or printing signs and flyers. And while those other methods shouldn\’t be ignored, the web is, in my opinion, the way forward!
What follows is my analysis of websites used by candidates in various races across Pennsylvania – mostly from the race for Governor and the various races for US House of Representatives. I analyzed 40 websites in total, through which I found candidates employing 5 major web platforms, in order of the most prevalent.
Data was taken from the PA Secretary of state an is the official posted election result counts. Additionally, the websites listed here were those registered when the candidate applied to run for office. Of course, there are many more candidates who did not declare his or her website to the Secretary of State, and those websites were not included in this analysis.
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Political Candidate Website Types
WordPress was the most prevalent website system used among the sites analyzed making up 42.5% of all websites, followed by regular HTML sites at 37.5%. The remaining 20% were composed of NationBuilder sites, Facebook, and Twitter. I think it\’s important to note that while Facebook and Twitter aren\’t actually full websites, the candidates in those cases, 4 in total, decided to forego a traditional website in favor of marketing the campaign only through social media networks. In a moment, I\’ll discuss how those campaigns fared.
Political Website Effectiveness
There are literally dozens of ways to rate the effectiveness of a website. You can look at length and type of content on the website, format and structure, or even a more subjective analysis like colors used or artistic flair. I was more interested in the bottom line – the win!
So the next analysis I ran was a win/loss ratio by website type being used in the races. As you can see in the chart below, WordPress has the highest win / loss ratio with 11 wins to only 5 losses. HTML is close behind with 9 wins and 5 losses. These two website types make up all the wins, while the candidates who used other website types, namely NationBuilder, Facebook, and Twitter, experienced only losses.
You\’ll notice that the WordPress website count for the purposes of this analysis drops from 17 to 16. This is due to one candidate dropping from the race, so for purposes of wins/losses it does not factor in.
Website Type Match-Ups
It is also helpful to note here that in some cases, candidate websites analyzed were used in races running against each other. For example, the 15 HTML sites were used across 10 races. That means, in some cases, a candidate with an HTML site was running off against another candidate with an HTML site. Of course, in political races there can be only one winner, with the other (or others) being the losers. Among the 17 WordPress sites, there were 4 common races – one of those races had 3 or more candidates – all with WordPress sites. What\’s interesting to note here is that the only time a WordPress site associated with a losing candidate is when it ran against another candidate using a WordPress site also.
When candidates using a WordPress site ran against a candidate using any other type of website, the WordPress site was associated with the winner 100% of the time.
There were two instances of a direct match up between HTML sites and WordPress sites running against each other, and in each case the WordPress site was associated with the winning candidate.
A Closer Look at WordPress in Political Websites
With WordPress being used in such a high percentage of winning races I took a closer look at the types of WordPress websites being used by the candidates. The advantage of using a system like WordPress is its high extensibility, modular plugin-in features, and ease-of-use. It also offers the ability to quickly switch between free and stock templates and custom frameworks.
We saw two different types of frameworks being used:
- Full custom builds
- Premium Templates
A full custom build is one where the website is built from scratch. No stock template is employed, or if a template was employed it was modified to such an extent the website no longer looks reasonably like the original template. These are more complex websites with additional features added in, and likely done at a higher price point than the premium template scenario discussed below.
A premium template is a website that is created using a starter template that has the basic features already installed and styled. The candidate, or his/her developer, then went through the process of slightly modifying the template to the candidate\’s needs. In these cases, the sites were not modified extensively and the original framework template would clearly be visible in the website structure.
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In my analysis, candidates using WordPress chose to use full custom WordPress websites 56% of the time and premium templates 44% of the time. In terms of usage, the numbers are fairly close. But the results are not.
As you can see from the table above and the charts below, candidates using full custom websites experienced a much higher winning percentage. When full custom websites were employed, candidates won 78% of the time, whereas candidates using stock templates won only 57% of the time, a margin of more than 21%.
Political Candidate Websites Listing
The websites considered in this analysis are listed in the table below, along with the name of the candidate running and type of race. This list is accurate of 11/5/2015 while all the analyzed sites are still live and valid. They may at some point in the future come down. If the link doesn\’t work that is likely the reason.
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WordPress Political Websites Summary
It\’s well-known that WordPress accounts for nearly 1 in 5 of every new website created around the world, but I was surprised to see that WordPress was being used in more than 40% of the open races analyzed here in Pennsylvania. I have no doubt the WordPress ratio will continue to climb in future elections as the platform becomes even more prevalent, and even easier to use.
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